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(Imperial, Los Angeles, Orange and Fresno). English learners in county court schools have also decreased from 22.6 percent in 2007 to 17 percent in 2011, similar to the proportion of EL students in public schools throughout California. Most English learn- ers in court schools are at Early Advanced (30 percent) or Advanced (10 percent) levels of English language proficiency. About 29 percent are at the Beginning or Early Inter- mediate levels.

Lessons learned Valuable lessons were learned during

the two-year technical assistance project that may be applicable to other alternative educational programs such as community and continuation schools. The quantitative and qualitative evidence that supports the findings in this report were collected from school administrator interviews during three site visits, results of an online survey, training institute evaluations and com- ments, and extant school-level data from state research files. The evidence is clear that teachers and

administrators in California court schools have made deliberate efforts to create a rig- orous academic instructional setting, im- plement effective EL strategies through cre- ative modifications, and build collaborative efforts throughout the state to support new and ongoing instructional practices.

A rigorous academic instructional setting The purpose of juvenile court schools is

to provide mandated and compulsory pub- lic education to juvenile offenders who are under the authority of the county juvenile justice system and are incarcerated in juve- nile halls, camps or ranches. Juvenile court schools are operated through the county of- fices of education. No other factor contrib- utes more challenges to the implementation of effective instructional strategies for EL students in these settings than the necessary nexus of creating a safe and secure facility while providing academic instruction to the students in the 82 county court schools. Competing yet sincere interests be-

tween the county offices of education and the juvenile justice system (such as county probation) have often prevented access to a

The fol low- ing comments f rom cour t school teach- ers suggest in- creased imple- mentation of instructional

activities to engage English learner students in learning English and aca- demic content. n “More focus on student group-

ing, more student interaction, more teacher interaction during staff col- laboration meetings and outside of staff collaboration meetings.” n “We do more classroom inter-

action and have more positive inter- action. One teacher has open discus- sions with students. One teacher is currently using narrative inquiry and invitation-to-talk to create class- room discussion. We strive to have more students talk!” n “The teachers are allowing the

students to work in Pair-Share more. They are allowing talking between students which wasn’t allowed be- fore.”

positive learning environment for many EL students due to probation’s priority to main- tain order and provide a safe environment. But the untiring and courageous efforts by many court school teachers and administra- tors have brought attention to practices that have had a negative impact on learning. Many court school teachers have estab-

lished a culture of learning in their class- rooms within the correctional facility. One teacher made it clear to students that once they entered his classroom, they were “his guys,” even though probation officers may have jurisdiction over the students, escorted the students to class, and even remained present in the classroom. This firmly dis- tinguished to his students his instructional responsibilities and expectations, and the students’ role and responsibilities within the classroom. Another teacher launched a CAHSEE tree

in her classroom and posted student names as leaves whenever they passed the reading or mathematics sections of this high stakes test. It was not uncommon for students to observe names of friends or relatives on the tree and gain inspiration to pass the test.

Strategies require creative modifications Traditional forms of instruction in court

schools have been heavily didactic and pre- scriptive (Gehring, 2010). In some cases, students were required to wear handcuffs in class due to their behavior. For EL students, the dual roles of court school teachers have significant implications for the opportunity to practice oral English language skills (Au- gust & Shanahan, 2006), use instructional manipulatives to support conceptual un- derstandings and develop English language vocabulary (Short & Fitzsimmons, 2007), build and activate background knowledge (Bernhardt, 2005), and implications for the homogeneous grouping of students by Eng- lish language proficiency levels (California Department of Education, 2010). For example, in one large urban court

school, the linguistic grouping of students was prohibited by probation staff for safety concerns. It was unsafe to mix gang mem- bers even with the same language profi- ciency levels who required the same English Language Development curriculum. Lim- ited availability of security staff prevented the escort of students to ELD classes and classroom supervision during instruction. However, with probation’s cooperation, the school eventually designed a master sched- ule with designated ELD courses. Effective strategies designed for tradi-

tional classrooms must often be modified in a court school classroom. For example, “Four Corner Talk” is an activity that pro- motes oral language and activates back- ground knowledge by having small groups of students discuss and write what they know about of a topic. Each small group walks to all corners of the classroom to write on poster paper their knowledge or experience with aspects of a topic. One teacher modified the activity so

students remained seated at their table, and rotated the poster papers to each small group. The essence of the activity was not

September/October 2012 29

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